Bad days hit us all from time to time.
Sleep deprivation, work stress, disagreements with others, or just too much time in the house with the kids can empty our buckets and bring out the worst in us.
Whatever the reason, bad days can impact the way we parent, hurt our self-esteem, and derail the wellbeing of a family for a while. Perhaps you snapped or yelled at your child and felt guilty about it afterward. Perhaps you were handed one parenting challenge after the other until you were worn out and questioned your parenting strategies. Or perhaps your children misbehaved, you doled out consequences, and the cycle continued until everyone in the family felt angry and depleted.
While we might feel powerless to the anger, sadness, and negativity of a bad day, there are a few things that we can do as parents to stop a bad day in its tracks:
Many people, especially those who are more introverted, need time alone in order to recharge their mind and body (like me!). Sometimes a short break from the situation is all it takes to turn a bad day around. Find a quiet place, even if it’s just the upstairs bathroom, and spend a few minutes alone.
Consider what will fill your bucket again—particularly if others are continually taking from that bucket.
Will this matter five minutes from now? Five weeks from now? Five years from now?
Asking these questions can help put a seemingly disastrous situation into perspective. You may realize that the bad day is the result of a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed. Other times, you might realize that the problem is temporary or of minimal long-term importance. Realizing the degree to which a perceived problem is impacting your mood can help you move on or take necessary action, as necessary.
As simple as it sounds, a few deep breaths can work wonders to salvage a bad day. Some people find it helpful to breathe in to the count of seven, hold for the count of seven, and breath out to the count of seven. Others simply try to slow their breathing, inhaling and exhaling with deeper and longer breaths.
While it sounds cliché, in many cases, it works. What’s more, you can use the breathing method anywhere and anytime you feel yourself slipping out of control or succumbing to a bad day.
Sometimes sharing your situation with a good friend can be very cathartic and help you rid yourself of the negativity. Oftentimes a parent’s bad day can feel even worse because of the fear that you’re alone in your struggles. It can be helpful to talk with a trusted friend who will listen and remind you that you are not alone in your parenting woes and bad days.
Every bad day has some good in it. Perhaps it was a spotting some birds in your yard, or a half hour of calm while the children played well together. Whatever it is, remind yourself that, despite your bad parenting days, you are still a good parent. If you having trouble thinking of the good, consider what you can be grateful for. I find that concentrating on gratitude really turns my mood around.
Whenever my children and I feel our negative emotions spiraling out of control, one of us will suggest hitting the reset button. This is an opportunity for everyone to put the bad day in the past, let bygones be bygones, repair rifts in the relationship, and move forward with a fresh start. We usually go for a walk together to reset our day.
If the entire day – or maybe even a series of days – falls into the “bad day” camp, try to end each day with something positive. Whatever you like to do best, try to find something positive that brings you joy at the end of the day. And remember: tomorrow is a new day.
The bottom line is, as parents, we all have our good days and our bad days. If we can stop a bad day in its tracks, the whole family will be a little happier. But if we can’t shake it, piling on the guilt doesn’t help either. In fact, it might prevent a good day from following a bad day.